Heat feeling determined to fix things after another frustrating loss

MIAMI — Two straight NBA titles and a trio of superstars can’t mask the Miami Heat’s current predicament.

They’ve lost five of six games and two consecutive home games for the first time in three years.

"This moment will either define our season or end our season," LeBron James said after Miami’s 111-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. "Obviously, it won’t end right now, but if it carries on to the playoffs, it will.

"We always have one defining moment, and this is it right here for us."

Miami (44-19) has 19 games remaining until the playoffs, which are supposed to be the real season for a team trying to three-peat as NBA champion.

The Heat appeared to be on cruise control just 11 nights earlier when they won their eighth straight game by beating Charlotte.

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Then came an 0-for-3 road trip to Houston, San Antonio and Chicago. A home win against Washington has been followed by losses to Brooklyn and Denver.

Are we talking your basic regular-season rough stretch, or could the Heat have major issues to solve?

"I think it’s dire consequences now," Chris Bosh said after scoring just 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. "Maybe three out of four, two out of three … (but) you get to four out of five, five out of six, you know that, to our standards, that’s unacceptable."

The loss to the Nuggets made it consecutive home losses for Miami for the first time since losing four in a row during March 2011, the first season of the Big Three.

A locker room filled with anger and frustration following Wednesday night’s loss to the Nets gave way to apparent confusion as players struggled to explain how things had turned so drastically, so quickly.

After all, losing to postseason-bound teams was one thing. But being beaten by a team that entered 12-20 on the road and hadn’t defeated a winning team away from Denver in two months?

"It’s a tough stretch," said Dwyane Wade, who scored 19 points. "Obviously, we haven’t been in a stretch like this since probably the 2010-11 season when we lost five in a row. When we were in that stretch, we had to figure it out.

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"It’s the same kind of thing with this. Something is off, obviously, with this team. We, as a unit, have to figure what’s off and get back to winning."

Asked if any off-the-court problems were carrying over to the hardwood, Wade shot that down strongly.

"It’s never in here," Wade said. "What we do in the locker room is totally 100 percent together. On the court, that’s where we’re losing ballgames. We have to figure it out there. I’m very confident in this team that we will. We gotta to do it sooner than later."

Bosh said team had "multiple" issues to address.

"We can’t pinpoint just one thing right now," he said. "We just aren’t playing well on any fronts on any part of the game. Not up to our standards."

Bosh added he was past feeling frustrated and angry about the Heat’s slump.

"It’s all about response now," he said. "We’re in a position we haven’t been in in a few years, and it can be either good or bad for us. It’s up to us."

What a difference a year makes. The Heat were in the midst of a 27-game winning streak at the same time last season.

"I don’t think it’s fatigue, we’re just not playing well," James said. "It’s a league where it can turn to quicksand quick. We have to figure it out, we have to continue to get better, and it doesn’t get easy for us having Houston come into our building on Sunday."

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James scored 21 points but only 10 after the first quarter. He had five points in the final period and has scored 15 points total in the last five fourth quarters — definitely not the way one expects the King to finish games.

Before the game, James said his broken nose was not an issue. After the latest defeat, he said a sore back had not been a bigger issue than previously.

James then was told it seemed he hadn’t gotten the ball much in the fourth quarter, when he hit 1 of 4 shots.

"It’s been that way as of late," he said with a smile.

Why was that?

"Just the sets we was calling," he said.

Through one and a half quarters Friday, Miami seemed to be handling Denver just fine. Then the Nuggets went on a 19-2 run to go ahead 43-30 with 4:51 left before halftime. The Heat fought uphill the rest of the way, getting within three with 1:05 to go but negated because the visitors hit 7 of 8 free throws.

Another loss. Another head-scratcher.

"There always are going to be those moments when you are struggling," James said. "And that’s where we are right now."

You can follow Charlie McCarthy on Twitter @mccarthy_chas or email him at mac1763@bellsouth.net.